How to be a good homeschool mom on a bad homeschool day

Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool 

Your baby threw up all night.

Your toddler just can’t seem to stay in his new “big boy” bed.

You tossed and turned, trying to sleep but mentally revisiting yesterday’s math lesson gone wrong, that child who just can’t seem to make reading progress, that impatient sentence you shouted out of frustration, that teen’s bad attitude.

Then morning arrives and boom: the new homeschool day with all its duties and responsibilities hits you front and center, the issues that concerned you still surround you at the breakfast table, and you have no idea how the hours from now until bedtime will ever pass.

Welcome to a bad homeschool day.

Take comfort in the fact that they come to us all–newbie or veteran, beginner or seasoned pro. No matter how much experience we gain as homeschool mothers or fathers, we will never completely eliminate them.

Over the years I have handled bad homeschool days in an assortment of ways, trying to figure out what works best.

And while there’s no magic formula that will make everything better in the blink of an eye, here’s the one simple rule I’ve found that will enable you to still be a good homeschool mom on a bad homeschool day: 

Don’t tackle ANYTHING that will make anyone cry, especially yourself.

That’s it! On other days when you have a fully-charged battery to operate with, you can handle more.

But not on a bad homeschool day. It just isn’t worth the emotional and relational damage.

I stumbled upon this rule recently–while trying to push through certain parts of our morning school. I found myself literally getting choked up when I attempted to read from our usually fun grammar book.

A thought entered my brain: “Maybe there’s a better way to do this today.”

I pulled out the MadLibs instead. We laughed. It helped.

Because here’s the other thing you need to remember on a bad homeschool day:

Tossing your homeschool routine completely out the window can make a bad day worse.

I’ve learned this the hard way too. If it’s supposed to be a regular homeschool morning and instead we watch back-to-back episodes of Fixer Upper, the subsequent Mommy guilt won’t benefit our already tense home atmosphere.

Instead, the key is to keep a gentle structure, seeking to accomplish the same subjects, but in a different way if necessary–one that won’t make anyone cry.

This means your day (and what you change about it) will be unique to you and yours:

* Maybe instead of formal grammar, you grab a Madlib like I did. (Order some now and set them aside strictly for this purpose!)

* Instead of the usual math program, pull out a math board game (IF it doesn’t usually make anyone cry, that is!) or download a new math app and let your kids play around on it.

* Using educational apps and websites wisely can be perfect for a bad homeschool day–particularly if it’s a special treat and not something you do all the time! But I’d recommend researching and making a list now, when you’re having a good day, of apps or sites so you don’t have to do so in the heat of a challenging moment.

* Instead of formal history or science, you tune into a documentary or educational show on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or YouTube. Go ahead and put a few good ones in your Watchlist now!

* If you can’t face reading aloud, you grab an audio book and have everyone get cozy with blankets in the living room.

* Instead of that worksheet, you head for a walk in the woods.

* Reduce chores to the absolute minimum. Maybe the bathtub won’t be scrubbed, but the kids help you with laundry and dishes–or whatever that thing is that makes you feel calm to see it clean.

* Maybe you have an older child make scrambled eggs for dinner, or order takeout, or cook something simple that you enjoy making.

See what I mean? The parts of your day that you can face as usual, you do.

But the tears are your signal to approach a subject differently or to discard it completely if it isn’t essential for this one day.

A wise veteran homeschooler once told me that it’s the climate of our homeschool that matters long-term, NOT the day-to-day weather.

These bad homeschool days will come and go, but if we keep a long-term perspective, we’ll find that the occasional storm doesn’t blow us far off course.

Remember, we’re not trying to “do school” here. Our goal is not to just get all the things done.

Our goal is to create an environment so much deeper than what an institution can offer–one that enables kids and parents to thrive, where lifelong relationships turn into lifelong friendships, where a love of learning blossoms into a love of study that blossoms into a love of LIFE.

And teaching our children how to navigate the ups and downs of that life is one lesson that will go on to serve them forever.

What have you found works best to help you be a good homeschool mom (or dad!) on a bad homeschool day?

This post contains affiliate links, which means I get commissions for purchases made through them without any extra cost to you.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. “it’s the climate of our homeschool that matters long-term, NOT the day-to-day weather.” Thank you for this! It’s just the kind of encouragement a home school Monday needs. <3

  2. Getting outside is key for us. We only have one car, which my husband takes to work most days. That can mean A LOT of time spent in the house, which with four small kids can drive you bonkers. When I stop to remember that we can ride bikes in the cul-de-sac or simply have the older kids play in the driveway while the toddler naps (I don’t automatically think of this option) or go for a walk to the greenway nearby, the day gets a whole lot better. I love these quotes – so much wisdom in this post! Especially about not continuing with anything that makes them (or you) cry. Thanks!
    June’s latest post: Yep, Your Kids Watch Too Much TV, and That’s O.K.

  3. Love this. I really liked the part where you said not to throw everything out the window. Mom guilt is hard enough. We don’t need to be adding to it. Great list!
    Jen | Practical, By Default’s latest post: The Best Advice From Working Homeschool Moms

  4. Having recently started our 7th year of home school, I must say this post helped me tremendously today. Based on other life factors (including struggles through home school and parenting) I’ve struggled with feeling defeated. Your encouragement this morning helped me face the struggles–that did not ease up–with a spirit that led to victory instead of more defeat. I plan to re-read this tomorrow morning, too!

  5. Such good reminders, Jaime! Thank you. “Our goal not to just get all the things done” I reminded myself of that this morning when my son, clearly overtired from a fun weekend, was in a bad mood. Doing math could wait. Nothing good would come from pushing him. We have time. That’s one of the main reasons we homeschool. And the funny thing, when I told him he should probably do math later when he felt better, he chose to do it then and snapped out of being grumpy. Choice is a powerful thing when we’re not having a great day.

    • “And the funny thing, when I told him he should probably do math later when he felt better, he chose to do it then and snapped out of being grumpy. Choice is a powerful thing when we’re not having a great day.” —> Wow, Kelly, what a powerful of example of having the freedom to choose!

  6. This was so timely! I have been homeschooling for 16 years and still have bad days. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  7. The back to back episodes of Fixer Upper…Yes, I’m guilty. But, since the show is all re-runs now, I can turn it off and sit and read with my son, do spelling and enjoy focusing on him. He loves having me all to himself now. My first two children have graduated from homeschool and he’s the last one. We have 4th-12th grade to spend together. We’ll never regret the time spent homeschooling our children! We can all do it!!

  8. Thanks for the awesomely encouraging post! Newborn and a new house here, so it is all very relevant right now.

  9. Play some upbeat music and dance!
    Watch a good movie together.
    Walk the dog and go for a nature walk with magnifying glass in hand.
    Have individual, quiet reading time. Book should be the choice of the reader.
    Play a game you all enjoy.

  10. Janelle Thietje-Dunn says:

    I love your phrase “gentle schedule”. YES! With numerous kids and their needs, we can’t throw out the schedule altogether, but we can keep it differently. Thank you. In year 10 over here, and always gathering some new nugget of insight.

  11. Great article. As someone who has homeschooled since 2009, I can relate. My kids are 7, 10, and 17. I will say, in regards to “Tossing your homeschool routine completely out the window can make a bad day worse.” I would disagree (at least for me, everyone is different). I have found that on those “bad” homeschool days sometimes loading up the kids in the car (of course mine are older) deciding it’s a no home school day and just heading to the mall for a distraction from the day to day grind is helpful to both me and my kids. We walk around, maybe grab a cookie or pretzel and just go in and out of stores they enjoy (maybe buying something maybe not). It feels good. Then we get back on schedule the next day. A little different if one of the kids is sick. Depending on how sick, homeschool might happen to a lesser degree or not at all. But all in all love what you said here.

  12. Trishna Martin says:

    Hey, Mom, it’s me, Trishna. I read this post that you made and it was great!

  13. This is so awesome! My bestie just sent me this link because welp…. today has been a bad and hard homeschool day for me! I homeschool my eldest (1st grade) and then I also have 3 others and all under 3 (3 year old, 17 month old and newborn)! Reading this definitely encouraged my heart to relax and take a breather and stop doing unnecessary chores (just for today)! Thank you!

  14. Thank you, Jamie!! I tend towards throwing things out the window, and so appreciate your encouragement to keep a gentle routine. I’m also greatly affected by the weather, and resonate with maintaining a positive homeschool climate whatever the weather (real and emotional).

  15. jeanne delbarre says:

    Thanks for this very encouraging post. We just started our homeschool journey with three kids and a baby. Enjoying it a lot but still plenty of self doubt. Regards from Ireland

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: